By Bennett J. Loudon
November 7, 2014
|The Fidget chair, used by the child on the right, was|
invented by Sandra Turner, of Fairport, to help
burn a child’s energy and help them focus.
Sandra Turner has lots of scientific research to show why her invention is a good idea.
But anybody who had trouble sitting still all day in an elementary school classroom — and who didn't? — won't need to read her 29-page master's thesis to believe that her Fidget chair makes sense.
"The Fidget allows that side-to-side motion, like a Weeble that wobbles back and forth, but doesn't fall over," Turner said. "There's enough movement that it allows them to release their energy, but it's not enough movement for them to get crazy and fall over or tip over."
"I was one of those natural fidgeters. I moved a lot and I had an attention problem," Turner said.
"My thesis was kind of finding that balance between the need for control in the classroom, but the need for freedom and that natural movement. You have kind of this tug-of-war," Turner said.
Turner and Christlyn Snyder, co-owners of Viggi Kids, a company created to make and sell the Fidget and other products, have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 by Nov. 30 to pay for a mold to have the Fidget made at an Elberfeld, Indiana, factory and produce inventory.
"The mold cost itself is $20,000. We crunched the numbers and factored in our shipping cost. We have to hit the $50,000 or else we won't be able to pay for the mold," said Turner, who has invested about $10,000 of her own money so far.
Currently, the retail cost for the Fidget is $70, including shipping.
Turner came up for the idea in 2010 when she started working on her thesis for a master's of fine arts degree in industrial design at Rochester Institute of Technology.
During research on classroom design and innovation she observed day-care centers and elementary school classrooms in several Rochester-area school districts.
"I was very drawn to being able to inspire kids to move and to have that freedom while learning," said Turner, an adjunct professor at RIT who also owns a design company called Rove Design Group.
"I noticed that teachers were very open to alternative furniture that helped kids to move, especially kids that really needed it, like I was, and that's when I decided to focus on the movement in the classroom," she said.
There's nothing like Fidget on the market, she said. Only the stability ball, a large air-filled ball, comes close. But it's not as stable and often loses air easily.
|Kickstarter - Fidget: Inspiring Natural Movement|
In the promotional video on Turner's Kickstarter campaign page, Whitney Rapp, associate professor of education at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, said: "By allowing kids to have that way to fidget just a little bit will probably cause them to move less than the way they're moving now in these static chairs that don't move."
The first Fidget model is for 3- to 6-year-olds. Eventually, Turner hopes to make larger sizes for older children, college students and other adults.
"It helps them to release energy, and by being able to release energy it helps to improve their focus, it actually calms them down," Turner said.
Turner is not the first innovator to see the benefits of activity in the classroom to help students focus. At least one school in North Carolina is trying exercise bikes in place of desks and chairs.
"There is definitely a shift and a movement toward providing kids with a way to release energy while learning because of the research that supports that it's a good thing," Turner said.